7 Jun, 15:39
ERC can confirm that the Federation Française de Rugby (FFR) has withdrawn its application to host the 2014 Heineken Cup and Amlin Challenge Cup finals, due to the ongoing uncertainty regarding the availability of the Stade de France.
The newly promoted Zurich Premiership outfit will have three sources of help for their daunting debut - French international wing Thomas Lombard, who has transferred from French champions Stade Francais Paris, recently recruited England flanker Pat Sanderson and director of rugby Andy Keast.
Keast was the director of rugby at NEC Harlequins when they had to travel to the home of the 1997 Heineken Cup winners for a European Challenge Cup quarter-final in 2001. On that occasion the Quins produced a major upset to win 20-13 on their way to taking the title.
Back row dynamo Sanderson was a 57th minute replacement in that quarter-final victory at Brives Parc Municipal des Sports and will know what to expect on his return in the second leg of the first round.
"Brive had a great season in the French Championship, reaching the play-offs and making the semi-finals of the Sud Radio Challenge Cup," said Keast.
"It is a great way for us to launch our European career at Worcester because it really is a mouth-watering tie. I vividly remember taking the Harlequins to Brive when I was director of rugby there in 2001.
"The noise from the home crowd was amazing and it was a very intimidating atmosphere to play in. Its going to be a great adventure for Worcester rugby club."
Brive, the top seed from France, still have the former French outside half Alain Penaud in their ranks. The veteran No 10 captained them to their Heineken Cup triumph in 1996 and was at full back in the side pipped by Bath in the final the following year. He also has experience of playing in England with Saracens.
"It's great to be up against an English team straight away. It's always enjoyable to play against British and Irish sides - their success in Europe speaks for itself," said Penaud.
"I've only got good memories about playing in England from my time there too, so this draw is good news for me and the club. Last year was our first season back in the elite game and the European Challenge Cup helped us to re-launch our game.
"We won through to the quarter-final stages, but were taken by surprise by Harlequins in the away leg after we had managed to win at home. By starting with an English team, we will hopefully play a better match this time.
"I know that Thomas Lombard has gone to Worcester, which is a very good signing for them. We met his old club, Stade Francais, six times last season and are very proud of the fact that we won five of those games.
"Thomas is an excellent player and a wonderful person off the pitch too. It will be good to meet up with him again.
"I believe it is an advantage to play away first, but it is down to us to use that advantage well. Well be back in training in 10 days time and well be warming up for the Worcester match with a friendly against English opposition.
"Last year it was great for our game to come up against top quality teams in the European Challenge Cup. We have the same attitude this season - all the players and staff are certainly up for the challenge!
"We will take it round by round. First, we have to get past Worcester, which won't be easy, and then well see who we get."
While Worcester have recruited 12 new players since clinching promotion to the Zurich Premiership with an unbeaten run of 26 matches in Division One last season, Brive have also bolstered their ranks. French internationals Lionel Mallier (back row) and Pascal Giordani (centre) have joined from Perpignan, Farid Sid (wing) has come in from Colomiers and front row men Damien Minassian and Julien Campo have left Biarritz.
Brive, the club that gave the French side players such as Olivier Magne, Christophe Lamaison, Philippe Carbonneau and Penaud, also have a player on the current French tour to the USA and Canada, centre Ludovic Valbon.